Adventures with Scrivener

Until now, I’ve only really used a few features of Scrivener: the goal and wordcount feature, the folders, the ‘split at section’ command, and occasionally the research file.

This time I’m trying something different.

I wrote the whole of this draft in Microsoft Word. Because I wasn’t using any features aside from the wordcount and the putting-text-on-white-space features, it didn’t matter what software I used. Now I’m being a bit more discerning.


I opened a new folder on my project and pasted the entirety of my story into the first text document. From there, I went to the first scene break and split the story to the next section. split at section

By splitting the pre-written sections one at a time, I have the chance to really look at them without getting overwhelmed by how much I still have to do. I can thoughtfully evaluate when the scene actually starts and ends, figure out a title that won’t leave me hopelessly lost in a few days, and add a summary for my purposes.

Metadatameta data

Scrivener has options for metadata. It defaults to descriptions of the chapter/section/idea/what have you, but I tinkered with it somewhat.

Because my story involves traveling between multiple locations, I set one to keep track of the country–this one by color.

I set the other one to keep track of the prevalent mood of each scene, both as the scene opens, and as it closes. I’ve mentioned before that we can’t just dwell on a single mood— it needs to continuously rise and fall to keep the readers invested.


I’ve been doing a lot of reading about theme in particular, and I’ve been trying to apply what I’ve learned so far. I’ve identified three core themes in my story, and the facets thereof that the different characters embody. Now that’s a lot of stuff. It’s too hard to keep track of all the themes of an entire story all at once. I’ve found it’s much easier to take it section by section and noting the themes that are touched on, and how they’re developed over the course of the story.

Characterscharacter keywords

I’ve got a whole lot of named characters, so I use the Keywords feature to keep a track of which characters made an appearance in a given scene, and which ones were only mentioned. So far I’ve found that some of them are mentioned rarely enough to merit combining or cutting entirely (I’m looking at you, Kessie!), while one in particular needs a few more mentions to properly emphasize his place in the story.

Document Reference

There’s also a nifty feature that allows you to cross-reference the events going on in one section with stuff going on elsewhere. This becomes really useful for remembering exact details and wording of past conversations, keeping track of which saint deals with what aspects of life, and using the proper terms for all the parts of a dirigible.

The Cork Board

I’ve always admired the cork board feature on Scrivener, but I’ve never really had reason to use it before. Now that I’m taking advantage of all these other features, though, it’s a great way of seeing a lot of details at a glance.

cork board

What do you use to write and edit your stories? Are you big on features like these, or are you more a traditional ‘just-get-the-words-on-the-screen’ kind of writer? 


8 thoughts on “Adventures with Scrivener

  1. Thanks for linking to my posts. 🙂

    I love the potential of Scrivener. I haven’t done a whole lot with it yet, but I like sifting through what others have done for ideas. 🙂

    Where you have Location, I set up POV so I can see if my hero and heroine are fairly balanced for number of scenes and word count. I’ve played with the Cork Board and Target Word Counts, but I haven’t done any Keywords yet. A part of me finds it fun, but another part (the pantser part 😉 ) just wants to get the words on the page and do all the analyzing later. 🙂


    1. I agree. From what I’ve done so far, it seems to be a lot easier to use those features for editing than the initial writing.

      Thank you for the comment– and for the really insightful posts!


  2. I’ve actually always been a ‘get the words on the screen’ kind of writer. Which was hell when it came time to editing my notes. I’d have one word document for all of my plot notes, worldbuilding notes, character notes, a random but great dialogue I got in my head but isn’t needed JUUUUST yet, it was ridiculous! I’ve only recently started using Scrivener but it’s amazing. I imported my current major WIP (all 98k of it) scene by scene. I still haven’t brought over all of its worldbuilding info, but the ability to add labels and keywords has helped soooo much. I actually used the labels for POVs and then set it to show in the binder, so at a glance I knew which characters were popping up more often than others.

    The real experiment is happening now, I’m starting a brand new WIP from scratch in Scrivener. It’s actually proving a little awkward to already have the option to organize all my thoughts when I don’t even know what they all are yet lol. So I may still wind up with a huge ‘idea’ word doc and then start importing and labeling when I feel it’s gotten unruly enough. Great post, loved the screencaps! Those last ones (with the german flag) are those colors on the right the keyword colors? I hadn’t realized you could have them show that way in corkboard mode, that could be useful! I love the way corkobard mode LOOKS but I haven’t found much actual use for it to be honest.


    1. You’re absolutely right, Jace– and thank you for reading!– The colors on the side (the German flag) is a visual display of the keywords– which, in my case, are the characters who make an appearance.

      To take full advantage of the corkboard (in my experience at least), you can go to the top of the screen, select View–>Corkboard Options. I’ve selected all three (show pins/stamps/keyword colors).


  3. I write my stories in plain, old Microsoft Word. People blogging about Scrivener is always interesting to me. I can see the gimmicks about it having appeals, though I don’t know if I’d find them particularly useful. The “start/end mood” made me chuckle. I ought to at least give it a trial run.


    1. I’ve tried a bunch of different writing softwares over the years, and I’ve found everybody’s got different needs that aren’t always met perfectly by every brand. Word is still my favorite when it comes to actually churning out the new content, but Scrivener is quickly becoming my darling when it comes to edits.


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